Janet Russek and her husband David Scheinbaum are no strangers to the New Mexico art scene. They run a private fine art and photography consulting firm out of Santa Fe and are themselves photographers whose works have been shown in the Corcoran in Washington DC, the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris and elsewhere around the world. With the release of their new books, the couple brings their exceptional perspectives to Albuquerque to benefit the nonprofit gallery 516 Arts (516 Central SW). While each exhibits a similarly concentrated gaze, their lenses are pointed at entirely different subjects.
Scheinbaum’s most recent work has taken on the world of hip-hop, to which he was introduced by his son 14 years ago at Albuquerque's Sunshine Theater. Drawing on his own youthful involvement with music, Scheinbaum took his cues from Roy DeCarava and his book of jazz musicians, The Sound I Saw. He picked up his camera and started to explore the culture, sounds and movements of hip-hop. The culmination of this exploration can be found in his new book, Hip Hop: Portraits of an Urban Hymn.
Scheinbaum often forgoes the “perfect shot” for blurry washes of color or the frantic movements of performance energy. In one instance, he captures DJ Mr. Dibbs at work on the turntables, where cool purples and deep reds blur together. The shot isn’t concerned with archiving a moment; instead, it locates the energy of the music. Don’t be fooled though—Scheinbaum knows when to focus the lens and find the dynamic iconography of hip-hop. A 2007 shot of Public Enemy’s Chuck D shows the rapper fist forward, mic close to his mouth against an open black background. In this stilled second, one of hip-hop’s greatest orators is represented as a figure of relentless power.
In contrast, Russek’s work in The Tenuous Stem focuses on the natural world, framing a collection of objects and people in compositions of bold, high-contrast photographs. Where Scheinbaum explores the sound and noise of a culture, Russek occupies her lens with objects at rest, before the world has acted or intruded on them.
Through five different sections focused on fruits and vegetables, pregnant bodies and discarded dolls, Russek's images are deceptively still. With the colors stripped away, her work meditates on the shapes of nature’s beauty. “Pregnancy,” with its dozens of portraits of pregnant women, serves as the book’s centerpiece section. Here she displays the frames of mothers from many different angles, focused on the gentle shapes and curves of the transformed bodies. These pieces feel directly inspired by Mapplethorpe’s portraits of nude black men. In one shot, Russek focuses her lens only on a woman’s belly, where she employs rich, gray tones to accentuate the rounded form. In another shot, she focuses on the whole of the person, in this instance utilizing cutting silvers that fade into harsh white tones.
On Friday, Nov. 1, catch a glimpse of the couple’s very different but equally dramatic work at their combined book release party. The duo is offering a portion of the proceeds on the sale of selected prints and limited edition posters to benefit 516 Arts. A cash bar provided by Tractor Brewing and a DJ spinning tunes promise a dynamic night of photographic splendor Downtown.